12 January 2011

Forgotten Songs Retrospective -- "Goblins and BloodBirds"

This is another installment of the commentary track for Katja's Diary.  It covers session 8 of our D&D 3E game that we played from 2001-2003.

Good Lord, I was a horrible DM!  Having just gotten almost killed in Roth's well, what the party needed was an easy win -- a small victory where they could do something good and feel good about doing in.  Instead, I hit them with stirges and a goblin ambush.  I was not a nice guy.  And I don't mean that in a "Heh! Wasn't I a rat bastard!" sort of way.  I really look back on these sessions and am chagrined at my poor encounter design and lack of understanding of pacing.

The party had been warned about the stirges at the Bridge of Da Degra beforehand, by both Roth Farstrider and the folks at the Inn of the Western Way.  The goblins were a planned encounter.  It wasn't supposed to be terribly difficult, but rashness and poor tactics on the party's part made it harder than I wanted it to be.  By this time, I should have anticipated Kreed charging ahead and not sticking with any sort of plan.  Again, everyone almost died.  This caused player frustration, as channelled through Boaz toward Katja and the others.  I remember that Boaz's player had come up with a very elaborate plan for dealing with the stirges, a plan that wasn't followed very well and (of course) didn't anticipate the goblins.  I've no doubt that this plan came about due to the party's marginal victories in the past few sessions; Boaz's player was no doubt feeling the group simply wasn't performing well.

That player not only tried to whip the group into shape, he also had plenty of advice for me.  Immediately after Roth's story in The Blue Notebook, I have a two page printout that I am pretty sure came from Boaz's player.  It has stats for hobgoblins, worgs, and goblins taken from the MM and a seven-step order of battle on how the goblins ought to act whenever the party tried to cross the bridge again -- so I suppose this was given to be after session 8 but before session 9.  It includes lots of conditionals ("if the party delays in crossing bridge, go to step 5" and handwritten notes (again, from Boaz's player) about relevant modifiers for cover, spot checks, and the like.  I don't remember how I took this when it was given to me, but looking back at it now it seems, well, presumptuous is probably the nice way to put it.  It is, in effect, a player telling the DM how the foes ought to behave.  Am I right in thinking that sort of behavior seems slightly out of line?  Not that it mattered, as the goblins simply ambushed the party at night because the party camped within sight of the (hidden) goblin camp.

The goblins were there in order to show the party that there was organized humanoid activity in the region. This activity was directly tied to the Temple of Oghma in ways I will reveal as the party (unwittingly) stumbles across more of their plot.

Oh, this also features Bix using his whip for the first time!  Love the whip!


  1. I remember the group being excessively concerned about "performance". I remember being very annoyed about this. As a player, I'm much more interested in have having zany good fun during a fight than efficiently dispatching enemies with perfect teamwork and tactics. That's why I generally prefer systems that are more forgiving of character-driven (sometimes reckless) behavior.

    Along those line, I thought the goblin/stirge encounter was exciting and interesting. Lots stuff was happening in a cool tactical environment.

  2. I think I contributed to the performance concern. I think it's a by-product of post 3E D&D. I am not blaming the system, but as someone who was still trying to figure it out, it was hard not to fall into the ingrained systemic assumptions.